No team is ever going to play a perfect half of basketball, because it’s just not physically possible, but once in a while a team can come up with 24 minutes of brilliance and domination that is wonderful to watch.
Kind of like what the Raptors did in the first half Sunday against the Utah Jazz.
Forget that the Jazz made some noise in the third quarter — it was all moot — because in taking a 77-37 halftime lead on the way to a 130-110 victory at Scotiabank Arena, the Raptors played a half for the ages.
The numbers and historic context were stunning.
- The 77 points were two off the all-time franchise record for a half and the most this season.
- The 40-point lead was the biggest in franchise history, the biggest halftime in the NBA this season, the biggest deficit a Utah Jazz team had ever faced midway through a game, and tied for the eighth-biggest halftime lead in NBA history.
- Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol — also Siakam and Norm Powell — combined for 37 first-half points, the same amount the entire Utah team scored.
- The Raptors had 21 assists on 29 made baskets and shot 60 per cent from the field (61 per cent in the second quarter) while holding Utah to just 18.5 per cent.
It was as good as the Raptors have looked in any half this season, at the very least.
“Yeah, for sure,” coach Nick Nurse agreed after Toronto won its seventh straight overall and improved to 9-0 at home. “Shots were going in, defence was tough each possession … and yeah, those things feed each other. The defence feeds the offence.”
The Jazz made an inevitable run — paring the deficit to less than 20 midway through the third and scoring 49 in the quarter — but that was just regression to the mean and the nature of basketball. Teams make runs. It happens all the time.
“I don’t want to really talk about that third quarter, if that’s all right,” Nurse said. “I’m happy that we get a 20-point win against a quality team like that. You take that every day of the week.”
Siakam finished with 35 points to lead the Raptors, VanVleet had 21 points and 11 assists, and six other players were in double figures.
- Ibaka returns: Serge Ibaka made his return after missing 10 games with a sprained ankle, suffered Nov. 8 in New Orleans. He was predictably rusty, going just 5-for-14 from the floor in 21 minutes off the bench. The Raptors weren’t expecting immediate brilliance from the veteran and are willing to let him ease back into his usual role. “You kind of throw him out there in probably his regular spot — first big off the bench — and see how he goes: see how his wind is, see how the game’s flowing for him,” Nurse said before the game. ”Like we do with anybody, if he’s rolling we let him roll, and if he’s not we keep it short.”
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- Fast and furious: Sunday’s game began the busiest month of the season for the Raptors, who will play 15 more games before the calendar turns. Included in that stretch are three sets of back-to-back games. Nine of the next 15 are against teams that currently have better than .500 records, and 10 of the next 15 are at Scotiabank Arena. There’s also the Dec. 11 return of Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers, the first Christmas Day home game in franchise history and a New Year’s Eve 7 p.m. start against the Cleveland Cavaliers to wrap the decade.
- Up next: The somewhat surprising Miami Heat, a non-playoff team last season, are in town for a 7:30 p.m. game Tuesday — the middle outing of a three-game Raptors homestand.
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